Lying in the extreme west of Uganda, along the boarder of Uganda and Republic of Congo within the western arm of the Rift Valley is the Semuliki national park. The park is an eastern extension of the vast Ituri rainforest in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This area, as a result of the climatic upheavals of the Pleistocene era, is greatly rich in both flora and fauna especially in avifauna. Created in October 1993, Semuliki national park with an area of 220sq km has an undulating terrain stretching between 670 to 760 metres above sea level. This makes most of the rivers and streams in the surrounding areas drain through the park.
The poor drainage and topography make the park flooded during the rainy season. The average annual rainfall is 1250 mm with two peaks from March to May and September to December. The temperature ranges between 180c to 300c with relatively slight daily variations. The park is the only lowland tropical rainforest in East Africa categorized as moist and semi-deciduous. With 336 tree species registered, 24 of these are restricted to only Semuliki national park. These include Nesogordania kabingaensis, Isolana congolana and Ejacis guineesis among others. Other tree species regarded as endangered include Cordia millenii and Lovoa surymertonii.
Semuliki national park, according to a survey carried out in 1999 by the Forest Department, has exceptional diversity for smaller mammals, birds and butterflies. Of the 435 bird species recorded (i.e. 34% of Uganda’s total) some of it cannot be traced elsewhere in East Africa including some of the continents’ most splendid and sought after birds such as the lyre-tailed honeyguide and the horn bill. Among the 63 mammal species, 9 are diurnal forest primates (e.g. blue monkeys, vervet monkeys, olive baboons and chimpanzees) and the nocturnal primates include pottos and galagos. 7 mammal species can only be found in Semuliki national park in the whole of East Africa: blue duiker, pygmy squirrel, beecroft’s flying squirrel, little-collared fruit bat, target rat, water chevrotain and forest buffaloes.
More than 375 moths and butterfly species have been confirmed including 46 species of forest swallowtails and charaxes with 81 species of large moths, 12 of which are classified as restricted.The park accommodates four ethnic groups of people including the Bakonjo and Bamba on the mountain slopes and the valley respectively depend on peasantry agricultural farming with crops such as coffee, cocoa, bananas, potatoes and rice; the Batuku people occupy the floor of the Rift Valley and they are pastoralists depending purely on cattle products; and the Batwa (Pygmies) who are the Ituri ethnic group depend on hunting – gathering. These depend on Semuliki forest.
Semuliki national park is breathtaking for birders, butterfly, primate and plant lovers. Sport fishing along river Semuliki is another interesting activity. There are two spectacular hot springs situated in a tract of hot mineral encrusted swamp land that culminate into two metre jet of hot water (1300c) and a pool (12 m diameter) of oozing boiling water (1060c). A 10 minutes natural boiling of food such as eggs can suffice.
From Semuliki national park it is easy to arrange a tour to the neighbouring protected areas such as the Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Toro – Semuliki Wildlife Reserve and Kibale Forest National Park.